[games_access] Harmonix needs our help!

d. michelle hinn hinn at uiuc.edu
Sat Dec 15 18:30:45 EST 2007

Hey everyone,

So I've been talking to the CEO of Harmonix about Accessibility and
"Rock Band." If you haven't yet seen it (ie, you were definitely not
at a booth right across from them at E for All!) -- Harmonix was also
behind Guitar Hero 1, 2, and 80s but then they spun that off to focus
on Rock Band (which works with up to two guitars, a drum kit, and a
mic). Right now it's available (USB wired) for Xbox 360, (wireless --
I think...) for PS3, and then (wired again) for PS2 (they have a USB
hub that plugs into the USB slot to allow for 4 separate USB devices).

Here's the situation from Alex:

"One obvious thing that has already become apparent in the forums is
that there's a demand among
paraplegic gamers for a mode of the drumming game in Rock Band that
doesn't require the kick pedal."

I was thinking about hardware solutions that might work, that perhaps
a set of drumsticks that has some kind of squeeze mechanism might
work but that might be tough to pull off while you are drumming.
Having the foot pedal in as a hat sensor would be difficult for those
who want to "ROCK!" (hehe...head banging). The thing is that there
are times when you have to hit the drum pads with both sticks and the
foot pedal all at the same time...so simply not using the pedal is
not an option if you want to progress through the game.

One thing for sure is the drums? It's the toughest thing on Rock Band
-- I brought it to a party last night and we had three people playing
as "the drummer" at the same time in order to avoid our "band" from
getting kicked off stage again and again -- even then the point
difference between the guitar and vocal versus the drums...guitar and
vocal were in the 80s and 90s/100 on "easy" and drums got to about as
high as 60/100 also on "easy." And this was from people who had never
played Sing Star or Guitar Hero on the other instruments. So there's
some balance issues that are coupled along with it.

So I'm thinking that a mode that didn't involve the kick pedal might
be more attractive in general...perhaps as some sort of patch (harder
with consoles if you don't have it hooked up to the net but they
might be willing to send out a patch on a game disk for free or the
cost of shipping and handling). Or it might just be a "for the next
version" kind of thing.

But can anything be done NOW with regard to a hardware alternative
for this version of Rock Band that has just come out? If there is a
software solution, what would we need access to in order to implement

Thoughts? We have their attention! We might be able to really
influence this game. Certainly I'll make Alex aware of Eelke's design
solution for Guitar Hero for the visually impaired. But this is a
rare direct opportunity for us to work with a major game company on
current and future versions of this so we can get an inside look at
what it takes to implement any one solution in a company. If it works
out, this gives us some "street cred" as a group and be able to talk
about the process at, say, next year's GDC with them.

Hey, it could happen -- this is the CEO we're talking to!


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